He whenua manapori pai a Aotearoa, kāwanatanga mai, kaunihera ā-rohe mai New Zealand is a well-functioning democracy across central and local government

Both central and local government have big impacts on the lives of New Zealanders. The smooth running of New Zealand’s democratic institutions is important to the accountability and transparency that gives people trust and confidence in democracy.

The mechanisms and support needed to make government functional contribute to people’s willingness and ability to participate in society.

Addressing complex issues requires co-operation and co-ordination across all of government, to be better able to tackle issues and pursue national objectives.

Intermediate outcomes

  • Executive government functions well through support, services and advice
  • Engagement between Māori and local government is strengthened
  • Government transparency is upheld
  • Local government works collectively to address national objectives.

Ngā Tīpako - Highlights

  • Establishment of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities as a Departmental Agency to better deliver for the ethnic communities in New Zealand.
  • Supporting the smooth transfer of Government following the 2020 election with 19 Ministerial changes, 29 office relocations and over 200 staff changes managed in the immediate period following the confirmation of the Executive.
  • Establishment of the Ministerial review into the Future for Local Government.
  • 86% of alumni from the Digital Graduates programme are employed by government.
  • The proportion of electric vehicles in the Crown Fleet increased from 30% to 60% which reduced the CO2 emissions profile from 99CO2 gm/km to 58.38CO2 gm/km.

How we are driving change to deliver our outcomes

Executive Government functions well through support, services and advice


All-of-Government and Cloud Digital Services

Internal Affairs provides information technology and support to Public sector investments in Digital data and Information.

Over the last few years Internal Affairs has been establishing All-of-Government (AOG) and Cloud digital services with the goal of transforming the way services can be delivered and consumed.

During the COVID -19 lockdowns, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) leveraged the information and technology and support provided by Internal Affairs, such as cloud capabilities and adapted its use of digital tools to continue core business and connect remotely in new ways.

Internal Affairs provided support to HUD which utilised digital data and information to adapt to the challenges faced by COVID-19 in a well-planned, efficient, cost-effective and customer focused manner. COVID-19 presented HUD with the opportunity to leverage digital data and information to be well-planned, efficient, cost-effective and customer focused manner. The COVID-19 lockdown challenged people’s conventional thinking about how they could use digital data and information.

Internal Affairs supported HUD during inter-agency meetings, with Internal Affairs hosting two to three meeting per week from as early as 2019, and hearing some of the challenges of other agencies was confronting. Internal Affairs support helped HUD avoid the challenges other agencies experienced.

Being a new organisation enabled HUD to adopt a cloud-based environment in a planned manner without the need to divest inhouse systems, this meant that most of their work could be done remotely using existing devices. HUD could still access their digital data and information when COVID-19 lockdowns necessitated working from home.

For instance, HUD had just arranged a big phase of engagement, with building industry stakeholders, before beginning consultation. When COVID-19 hit, HUD went digital and ran eight online workshops, and was able to include a focus on iwi engagement.

HUD now regularly meets with the Chief Executives of all the community housing providers around the country, using Zoom and Teams now means that these forums are now bigger, and more customer focused.

More information on the All-of-Government and Cloud Digital Services is available here

ICT Assurance/Cybersecurity – policies, standards, and responding to incidents like ransomware

Following the high-profile cyber-attacks on the NZ Stock Exchange, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Waikato District Health Board, Internal Affairs has supported the Public Service by providing assurance oversight across the system.

Internal Affairs, guided by the National Cyber Security Centre, operates in close collaboration with the Security Agencies to make sure that all agencies across the wider state sector are notified of potential threats and what actions they should take.

Internal Affairs also maintains direct contact to ensure that suppliers are taking all proactive measures to minimise impact on any or all agencies.

During these sorts of events, Internal Affairs uses its central position between suppliers and agencies to identify trends and weaknesses that require a system response so that agencies can respond appropriately.

Digital Graduates Programme

The Digital Graduates Programme aims to help build the information, technology and digital talent pipeline for government, part of the leadership role of the Government Chief Information Officer.

Internal Affairs led the initiative, collaborating with six agencies to co-design the programme – Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry of Education, Ministry for Primary Industries, NZTA, Statistics NZ, and Inland Revenue. Over two years, these agencies have hosted the graduates, providing them with unique opportunities to try out their skills and grow into digital leaders.

This year, 86% of alumni from the programme are employed by government.

All-of-Government Payroll programme

In April 2021, a Common Process Model unit was established and homed at Internal Affairs, following an agreement by the Digital Government Leaders Group. The Common Process Model helps other Government agencies when they want to replace their HR, Payroll, Financial Management, Asset Management, Procurement, and Health and Safety systems.

Internal Affairs has worked to improve Government payroll systems by ensuring agencies have better payroll processes, establishing a panel of providers, and providing assurance and investment advice.

This has involved providing oversight of agency payroll projects and improving agency practices in applying the Holidays Act, co-ordinating an approach to the market to ensure payroll systems align with a common payroll process. Nine agencies are in various stages of replacing their payroll systems, with some including payroll as part of their back-office (HR and Finance) system replacement projects.

Maintaining the integrity and stability of New Zealand’s financial system

Internal Affairs has issued its first formal warnings to a law firm and real estate agent (both in January 2021) under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (AML/CFT Act). Issuing a formal warning is a way of ensuring that New Zealand businesses have adequate policies and procedures to protect themselves and the public from those wishing to launder money or finance terrorism.

This action by Internal Affairs demonstrates the effective use of regulatory tools under the AML/CFT Act that serve to maintain the trust and integrity of the New Zealand financial system. Since those warnings, Internal Affairs has worked closely with the New Zealand Law Society to facilitate the closing of the law firm. The real estate agent took immediate action to address all areas of non-compliance demonstrating the effectiveness of these regulatory responses.

Supporting the transition to the incoming Executive following the 2020 General Election

Supporting the smooth transfer of Government following an election is central to a well-functioning democracy.

Following the 2020 General Election our Ministerial Services team supported the efficient transition of incoming and outgoing Ministers and office staff. This helped to ensure that the incoming Executive was able to begin delivering on its priorities as quickly as possible following the commencement of the 53rd Parliament in November 2020.

This represented a significant logistical exercise, with 19 Ministerial changes, 29 office relocations and over 200 staff changes managed in the immediate period following the formation of the Government and confirmation of the Executive.

We worked closely with the Parliamentary Service to incorporate lessons from the Francis Review, COVID-19 response, and previous election processes into our preparations to ensure Ministers and staff were well informed and supported through the transition. This included placing experienced transitional staff in key positions from day one; ensuring the set-up of ICT equipment and profiles was completed quickly and seamlessly; and implementing tailored guidance and induction information for staff.

Modernising the Crown Fleet

Internal Affairs supports Ministers and other official dignitaries such as the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, and Chief Justice and other senior judiciary, to conduct their business efficiently by providing safe, secure and trusted transport services.

As part of this work we manage the Crown Fleet of approximately 80 vehicles. In 2019 we began implementing a strategy of transitioning to an emissions-free Crown Fleet by 2025/26. We are progressively replacing the existing diesel or petrol-powered vehicles in the Crown Fleet with electric capable options and investing in charging infrastructure at our depots.

By 30 June 2021, we had increased the proportion of electric vehicles in the Crown Fleet from 30% to 60% and reduced our CO2 emissions profile from 99CO2 gm/km to 58.38CO2 gm/km.

Engagement between Māori and local government is strengthened

Enhancing relationships between Iwi and Local Government

Internal Affairs has progressed a programme of work with two key components intended to support and enable an enhanced relationship between iwi/Māori and local government:

  • Kaupapa Reorua – supporting councils and tangata whenua to partner on the development and implementation of a joint strategy (rautaki) to create more bilingual, reo Māori and English, public spaces that reflect the local stories and dialect of their towns and cities. We have worked with three pilot centres (councils and their tangata whenua partners) and the Minister will be formally launching this initiative in September 2021.
  • Co-Governance Data Portal – We are developing a digital portal that brings together publicly available data and information that can assist both tangata whenua and local government to make informed decisions about the natural resource over which there is a co-governance arrangement. This will be provided at no cost to co-governance partners.

Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act

We supported the Government to pass urgent legislation through the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Act 2021.

The statutory provisions for holding binding polls on establishing Māori wards for local government elections were identified as an almost insurmountable barrier to improving Māori representation in local government. This Act repealed the poll provisions and extended the period in which councils could make decisions about establishing Māori wards for the 2022 local elections.

This has enabled 32 new councils to adopt Māori wards or constituencies in time for the 2022 local election, increasing the number of councils with Māori wards or constituencies from three to 35.

Government transparency is upheld

Annual Reporting and Audit Time Frames Extensions Legislation Act 2021

A three-month extension was enacted for the next two financial years to Annual Reporting deadlines in the Local Government Act 2002. The changes were made to not disadvantage any Council and their subsidiaries who may experience a delay preparing their annual reports due to a national auditor shortage.

Supporting statutory inquiries and Royal Commissions

Internal Affairs continues to develop and maintain the cross-government system of inquiries. We have enhanced trust in government and improved transparency by supporting statutory inquiries and Royal Commissions which investigate matters of national significance and effect positive change for New Zealanders.

During the year, we provided administrative support to two Royal Commissions:

  • the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions, and
  • the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Masjidain.
Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State Care and the Care of Faith-based Institutions – Interim and administrative report

Internal Affairs continues to provide advice on, and support services to, the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission provided its substantive and administrative interim reports in December 2020. Cabinet directed the Royal Commission to complete its work no later than June 2023.

The Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission have been amended to reflect the new timeframe, strengthen the existing reporting requirements, and clarify the requirements to adopt a survivor-central approach and avoid an overly legalistic approach. The revised Terms of Reference have been gazetted and came into force at the end of July 2021.

Establishing the Ministry for Ethnic Communities as a Departmental agency, including consultation with ethnic communities to determine immediate priorities

Ethnic communities have, over the years, consistently called for the Office of Ethnic Communities to be replaced by a Ministry.

The establishment of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities in response to Recommendation 30 of the Ko tō tātou kāinga tēnei report from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019, marks a significant milestone in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history.

The new Ministry will have the leadership, mana and visibility to influence decision-making across government to ensure better outcomes for ethnic communities - nearly 1 million people, or around 20 per cent of the population, as recorded in the 2018 Census.

Cabinet agreed the role, mandate and immediate priorities of the Ministry, which were developed through an extensive engagement process with over 600 members of ethnic communities nationwide. The Ministry will:

  • take action to promote the value of diversity and improve inclusion of ethnic communities within wider society,
  • ensure equitable provision of, and access to, government services for ethnic communities,
  • develop and support initiatives to improve economic outcomes for ethnic communities, including addressing barriers to employment, and
  • work to connect and empower ethnic community groups.
Ethnic Communities - Budget 2021

In June 2021, following the release of Budget 2021, the Office for Ethnic Communities hosted a Zoom meeting with over 80 stakeholders from ethnic communities, at which the Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson, provided a high-level overview of the Budget; and the Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan provided an overview of the specific funding for the portfolio.

This also provided an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with Ministers directly, and topics addressed included the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, business recovery, and support for struggling communities; the housing crisis; health and wellbeing; and support for small businesses.

Local government works collectively to address national objectives


Three Waters Stimulus Programme – Taupō District Council

COVID-19 exacerbated the Three Waters challenges already facing the local government sector. Without support, many councils would have struggled to respond to immediate three waters challenges given the competing claims of other investment priorities.

In July 2020, the Government announced a funding package of $761 million to provide immediate post-COVID-19 stimulus to local authorities to maintain and improve three waters infrastructure, support the Three Waters Reform Programme, and underpin the operation of new water services regulator Taumata Arowai.

As a part of this stimulus package delivered through Internal Affairs, Taupō District Council submitted a work programme to improve its three waters infrastructure with an estimated cost of $8.32 million. At a high level, the projects included:

  • Upgrading six drinking water schemes with ultra-violet disinfection;
  • Renewing water mains and installing zone flow meters;
  • Wastewater network renewals and assessing infiltration and inflow to reduce sewer overflows;
  • Upgrading systems to improve the reliability of data from remote water and waste water facilities;
  • Installing treatment devices to improve quality of storm run-off into Lake Taupō.

The works have prioritised delivering strongly across the Government’s stimulus objectives, with all projects focused on the objective of significantly improving the safety, quality and resilience of drinking water services, and the environmental performance of wastewater and stormwater systems.

Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) supported Internal Affairs in the oversight of this programme. As at 30 June 2021, CIP reported Taupō District Council had completed 60 per cent of works and had invested $4.85 million of the $8.32 million allocated. In addition, 84 per cent of the funds were committed and in progress with contractors to continue with the planned works.

A Systems-led Approach to Local Government/Central Government Collaboration

Internal Affairs aims to achieve a collaborative system-wide, public service approach in which central and local government work together for the benefit of people, communities, business and the environment.

The Local Government sector is facing a significant period of change, challenge and opportunity. Ensuring the sector is well prepared for the future will be a marker of success for Internal Affairs as stewards of the local government system.

To help meet this challenge, on 26 January 2021 a new Local Government Branch - Ue te Hīnātore, was established by Internal Affairs. The new Branch combined functions from our Policy, Regulation and Communities Branch, and the Central/Local Government Partnerships Group to better align and coordinate policy advice across the Local Government Portfolio. Stewards of the Local Government system, we provide a long-term vision of what is needed to ensure its effective operation and delivery for the people of New Zealand.

Central to our system stewardship role are our Partnership Directors. They have strengthened connections with the sector by building direct relationships with Local Government Chief Executives and Mayors. They also continue to navigate and make pathways for understanding with local government, iwi / Māori. This positive change is critical for the implementation of the Government reform agenda of:

  • The Three Waters Reform
  • The Future for Local Government Review
  • The Resource Management Act Reform
  • Climate Change.
Future for Local Government Review

From November 2020 to April 2021, Internal Affairs provided advice to the Minister of Local Government to support the establishment of a Ministerial review into the Future for Local Government (the Review), which commenced in May 2021.

The overarching purpose of the Review is to identify how our system of local democracy and governance needs to evolve over the next 30 years, to improve the wellbeing of our communities and environment, and actively embody the Treaty partnership. The role and representation of iwi/Māori in the local government system is to be across all aspects of the Review.

The Review will run until 30 April 2023, when the final report is due to the Minister of Local Government. Other key deliverables include an interim report due in September 2021, and a draft report for public consultation due in September 2022.

Resource Management Act Reform

The Ministry for the Environment is leading a review and replacement of the Resource Management Act. The changes being proposed will have a significant impact on the Local Government sector, particularly local councils who will have to implement the new legislation. Internal Affairs been supporting the Ministry for the Environment in understanding the impact of the proposals on the sector, supporting the local government sector to understand the proposals being put forward and to inform the local government sector role in the new system.

Internal Affairs has facilitated regular engagement by the Ministry with a forum of local government Chief Executives and maintains ongoing communication with the local government sector through the Partnership Director function.

What are our indicators telling us?

The level of trust from the New Zealand public for the New Zealand Parliament has increased. This is also reflected internationally with most recent Transparency International corruptions perceptions index showing a perception of low corruption in New Zealand.

The Public Service Commission25 reported that results from 2020 identified a spike in trust and confidence in the government and whilst some of this may be attributed to a recent change in methodology, some of it is likely to be related to COVID-19 as the public service was core to the national response to the pandemic in 2020. The expected ‘normalisation’ of the results as the NZ COVID-19 context has moderated is likely to be behind the reduction in the trust and confidence score, although it is still higher than before COVID-19. There is a gap in the survey results for 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdown and a number of technical issues that prevented the survey from running. However, at July 2021, the Public Service Commission reported that:

  • 81% of New Zealanders trust public services based on their personal service experience,
  • Trust in the public service brand sits at 63% - the same as last quarter and whilst down from 69% last year represents a strong result in comparison to the 51% pre COVID-19,
  • Trust in public services demonstrates a continuing trend of improvement, reflecting increased trust and confidence in public services.

Results for some outcome indicators for 2020/21 are not available due to changes in survey timings and methodologies. The existing trend data for these indicators shows maintenance of results for open government, satisfaction with local government and institutions trust.

25 https://www.publicservice.govt.nz/our-work/kiwis-count-survey/